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CHILOQUIN, OREGON Monday, April 16, marked another important milestone in the lengthy Klamath Basin Water Rights Adjudication, with two new legal rulings handed down in favor of the Klamath Tribes' water rights, this time in the Klamath River and Klamath Lake.
Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement
These rulings add to six earlier victories achieved by the Tribes in December of last year concerning their water rights in the Williamson, Sycan, Sprague, and Wood Rivers, and many of the rivers' tributaries, as well as the Klamath Marsh and springs scattered throughout the former Klamath Reservation.
“ We welcome these rulings as part of the Adjudication process and the Basin resource picture,”
said Jeff Mitchell who leads the Klamath Tribes' Negotiating Team.
“These rulings reconfirm the role that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement can play in resolving Basin resource issues. The Tribes will continue to work with others in the Basin to determine the best path from here on.”
The most recent rulings again point to the wisdom of the Basin community pursuing a negotiated, mutually beneficial settlement instead of challenging water rights in lengthy and expensive litigation.
“With the results of the adjudication process becoming more clear, now is the time for Senator Wyden and Representative Walden to join Senator Merkley in supporting Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement legislation and press forward with Senate hearings,”
In each of the eight Tribal water right cases the judge has ruled in favor of quantification of the Tribal water rights in the amounts sought by the Tribes.
“These rulings are definitely a victory for the fish and all the water dependent resources that are important to the Klamath Tribes,”
said Tribal Vice-Chairman Don Gentry.
But while the Adjudication deals only with determining quantities of water, the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement provides for comprehensive habitat restoration critical to restoring Klamath Basin fisheries and aquatic resources.
The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement also includes other elements that not only benefit the fisheries, but all water users in the Basin. The Tribes will continue support of the negotiated Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement because we believe they provide the most viable solution to resolving long-standing disputes over water and fisheries management affecting the economic stability of our Klamath Basin community.
“It is disappointing, however, that while we have made much progress here in the Basin to resolve these important issues, the anti-tribal and anti-Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement themes of candidates like Tom Mallams, Doug and Gail Whitsett, and others have created a difficult environment for those seeking a balanced solution.”
The rulings are welcomed by the Tribes who, despite having faced untold challenges, have continued to fight tirelessly for the recognition and protection of their treaty rights for many decades. The Tribes' commitment to the health of the Basin fisheries and water bodies is explained by Mr. Mitchell:
“The Klamath way of life continues to this day and will continue for generations to come, so long as the water and treaty resources are protected. That is why we fight for the water; to protect and restore the treaty resources. The very essence of who we are is interconnected to the animals, birds, fish, and plants, to the land, and to the water.”
The Oregon Water Resources Department Adjudicator is expected to issue a final order resolving all Adjudication claims by early next year. If Oregon Water Resources Department follows the judge's rulings in the Tribal water right cases, the Tribes' water rights are expected to become enforceable in the 2013 irrigation season.
posted April 19, 2012 7:57 am edt
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